FL Women in Science - Part 1

Dr. Eugenie Clark at her desk in the Mote Marine Laboratory
Dr. Eugenie Clark at her desk in the Mote Marine Laboratory
SARASOTA (2009-03-17) -

With the nation's renewed interest in science, WUSF brings you a series featuring Florida Women in Science that covers three generations. We begin with internationally recognized shark expert, ichthyologist and founding executive director of Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory, Dr. Eugenie Clark.

Walking through the halls at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, you can't help but notice Dr. Eugenie Clark's door. It's plastered with decals and bumper stickers that say things like: "Dive Naked" - and "Be kind to animals, kiss a shark."

"I'm happiest when I can come in and do my work and look at my fish," Clark says. She keeps an eye on her fish even while in her office. There's a black-and-white monitor on her desk with a camera monitoring four convict fish.

As part of a behavioral experiment, a jar of pebbles is placed in the coral tunnel. Clark then watches as the convict fish remove all the pebbles, then they clean them and clean the jar.

But Clark is really known for her study of a much larger fish - the shark. She's called the shark lady and even has a web site of the same name. Yet, in her hundreds of dives, she's only had one "close encounter."

"I took this bag of stuff that I had and when he came close I just bumped him on the end of his nose," she says the shark turned away because their noses are very sensitive.

Her fascination with fish started at age nine with weekly visits to the old New York Aquarium at Battery Park. She especially loved the shark tank where she'd press her nose against the glass and pretend she was walking on the bottom with the sea creatures.

And though she turns 87 in May, Clark is planning and leading expeditions like a dive in Indonesia later this year to study the sand fish.

She has arthritis and a hip replacement but the older she gets the more Clark likes diving because of the weightlessness.

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